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Concerns over Catholic Parents’ Views on Passing on Faith
Catholic experts are expressing concern over the results of a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, which found that only 35% of U.S. Catholic parents consider it extremely or very important for their children to grow up holding similar religious beliefs. The survey also revealed that 30% of Catholic parents believe it is somewhat important, while 34% say it is not too important or not important at all.
Ambivalence among Catholic Families
The findings of the survey highlight a growing ambivalence among Catholic families when it comes to passing on their religious beliefs to their children. Susan M. Timoney, an associate professor at The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, expressed concern over this ambivalence, stating that it calls for a spiritual renewal among parents and families.
According to Timoney, many Catholic parents want their children to be good people, which encompasses many elements of a Catholic worldview. However, they struggle to share a conviction about the importance of practicing the Catholic faith and nurturing a personal relationship with God.
Lack of Perceived Impact of Faith on Relationships
Greg Popcak, director of CatholicCounselors.com, suggested that the survey results may be attributed to the belief among people that faith and religious practice complicate their relationships rather than benefit them. He noted that many view church as just another item on their already busy to-do list, while others fail to see how following religious rules positively impacts the quality of their relationships.
Popcak emphasized the importance of showing people how the Catholic faith can help them lead more loving, connected, and caring lives, especially within their families. He highlighted the CatholicHOM (Households on Mission) app, a digital family formation platform for Catholic families, as an example of an effort to demonstrate the positive impact of faith on family life.
Evangelization of Catholic Adults
Joseph White, a child and family psychologist and associate publisher for catechetical resources at OSV, found it particularly striking that a third of Catholic parents do not consider passing on their faith to be important. He argued that this highlights the need for evangelization among Catholic adults.
According to White, the issue is not just a lack of knowledge about the Catholic faith but a failure to understand why their children would need it. He called for a refocus on the “kerygma,” the core message of the Gospel, to help Catholics rediscover the significance of Jesus and the Church in their lives.
White emphasized the importance of helping children see the need for Jesus and the Church by helping them understand what Jesus has done for them and who he is. He believes that when children develop a personal connection with Jesus, they will naturally want to know more about him and be active in the Church.
Similarities between Catholic Parents and U.S. Parents in General
In many aspects, the responses of Catholic parents in the survey closely resembled those of U.S. parents in general. The percentage of Catholic parents who consider it important for their children to have similar religious beliefs as adults (35%) aligned with the percentage of all parents (35%). Similarly, the majority of both U.S. parents (81%) and Catholic parents (81%) find it important for their children to grow up as individuals who help others in need.
The survey also revealed that parents’ answers varied based on their frequency of religious service attendance. U.S. parents who attend religious services at least once a week are more likely to consider it important to raise children who share their religious views.
The Role of Catholic Parishes and Schools
With two-thirds of Catholic parents believing it is at least somewhat important for their children to hold their religious beliefs as adults, Joseph White recommended that ministry leaders in Catholic parishes and schools provide evidence-based tools to parents to ensure the passing on of the Catholic faith to the next generation.
White emphasized that it is the primary responsibility of the parish to help parents raise their children as lifelong disciples of Jesus. He referred to Pope Francis’s call for the Church to be a “family of families” and urged for a renewed effort to ensure the unity of families within the Church.
In conclusion, the survey results indicating a lack of importance placed on passing on religious beliefs among Catholic parents highlight the need for a spiritual renewal among families. Efforts to demonstrate the positive impact of faith on family life and a refocus on the core message of the Gospel are crucial in supporting the spirituality of Catholic families. Additionally, ministry leaders in Catholic parishes and schools should provide resources and tools to help parents in their role as the primary spiritual educators of their children. By strengthening the connection between families, the Church can better support the spiritual growth of Catholic families.